The Mpire Club
Not Just a Feast for your eyes
I know what you're thinking: Is Hangry District reviewing a strip club? Yes. Yes, I am. Here's why: It. Is. Delicious. I was invited to try the new and improved lunch menu at The MPire Club by new head chef, Ricardo Planas and was shocked by the beautiful and tasty menu items, heavily inspired by French cuisine. Here's how it all went down...
Ok, so I've never been to a Gentleman's Club before, haha. I was a little skeptical that the food would be worthy of the hype. You know how people say they go to Hooters for the wings? Right.... Anyway, the colored lights and stages did make me go Oooohhhh! I was intrigued and the atmosphere was so intimate and cozy, perfect lighting and comfortable seating for a date night out.
We started with some salads: Kale with roasted beets, spiced cashews, pears and manchego cheese; and Spinach with radicchio, cucumbers, spicy marcona almonds and roasted red peppers. The salads are hearty and filled with fun textures and ingredients. Definitely interesting combinations that you won't see on many menus.
For me, I'd like the salads in a big bowl so I could mix it up and cut it without fear of everything spilling off the plate - but I can get a little aggressive when HANGRY.
Sandwiches are Beautiful
And now for the main event....my favorite items of the day - the SANDWICHES! Ya'll... this BLT might be the best BLT you'll ever eat. House-made bacon, cured and marinated in Gochujang (Korean hot sauce/condiment from the Gods), is super crispy and piled on high with juicy tomato, lettuce and avocado. A gochujang aioli is slathered onto two toasted slices of white miche bread from local bakery Bread & Water to finish off this perfect lunch-time indulgence. I would absolutely come back to Mpire for lunch just to eat this masterpiece. Even the entertainment could not distract me from this culinary getaway.
The grown-up grilled cheese is also a phenomenal sandwich choice. Grilled Asiago bread, also from Bread & Water, sandwiches melty cheese and a mound of Serrano ham for a sandwich that will cure any and all HANGER. A tangle of lightly dressed micro-greens offers some refreshment from the luxurious sandwich. The bread is crispy on the outside with a soft chew as you bite down into the ham and cheese filling - another extremely filling and delicious lunch option. It would even be great to split!
The technique of Chef Planas shines with these small plate options. French cuisine inspiration explodes from these dishes and I had no problem gobbling them all up - even after the sandwiches.
First, pastrami spice seared tuna with a seaweed salad, avocado, and soy caramel. PASTRAMI SPICE - that is all. So genius! Heavily spiced and seared to perfection, the use of this salty, sweet, sour, umami rub is a wonderful complement to the fatty, unctuous tuna. The texture and flavor of tuna is not far off from pastrami, really. The velvety, fruity avocado balances out the heavy spice and gets you ready for the next bite. YUM.
Next, Steak Frites! Expertly fired hanger steak, cut against the grain was an A+. Medium rare and super tender, Chef Planas has mastered the hanger - a skill not to be taken for granted with this particular cut. A drizzle of my favorite sauce - chimichurri - is a lovely accompaniment for bite variety. The "frites" are fried new potatoes that are smashed and fried again for maximum crispiness. These salted jewels were such a fun play on the traditional frite, and I could've eaten about 35 more.
Finally, Duck a L'orange deconstructed. The fresh fennel and clementine salad acts as a bed for seared duck a l'orange, and was the star of this dish to me - so fresh and bright, I could not stop eating it. I would've preferred my duck with crispier skin and a tad rarer - but this dish is a clear winner for the lunch or dinner crowd.
Chef Ricardo Planas
Chef Planas comes from the renowned Café du Parc at The Willard, where he was the Chef de Cuisine. He joined Mpire to expand his creativity and share his passion for a variety of cuisines. He is a proud pitbull owner, avid sports fan and Twinkie fanatic. When he's hangry at Mpire, he'll whip up an omelette if need be, but cannot resist the temptation of a Twinkie!
So, I can say with confidence that I did in fact go to The Mpire Club for the food and will certainly be back for it! If you're in the area, don't be afraid to head in during lunch hours - it will be a feast for your eyes and also your belly. ;)